213 W. 42nd Street,
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The Lyric Theatre was built in 1903 and designed by Victor Hugo Koehler. It opened on October 12, 1903 with “Old Heidelberg”. The theatre had two entrances, the larger facade being on the W. 43rd Street side, in a mix of Renaissance Revival styles, and the smaller facade, resembling a brownstone mansion, on W. 42nd Street. Both were heavily decorated with sculpture, including figures of goddesses, masks, and of course, lyres. The Adam/Empire style interior of the theatre featured an auditorium with two balconies, 18 boxes, and gilded plasterwork. The color scheme was originally light green and rose.
The Lyric Theatre was initially to have been leased to composer Reginald DeKoven as home to his American School of Opera, but the school went bankrupt before the theatre was completed. It ended up being leased instead to the Shubert brothers as a legitimate stage. Sarah Bernhardt & her company appeared here, as well as Mrs Patrick Campbell. During slack periods in the 1910’s and 1920’s the Shubert’s sub-leased the Lyric Theatre out to William Fox to screen movies. In 1925 The Marx Brothers appeared on stage in “The Cocoanuts”. The theatre was sold in 1927 and the new owners planned demolition, but the deal went sour. In 1928 Florenz Ziegfeld presented “The Three Musketeers” starring Dennis King and this was followed by the Cole Porter musical “Fifty Million Frenchmen” on November 27, 1929. After that production closed on July 5, 1930, the theatre see-sawed between movies and stage productions. One of the last stage productions was an all black cast in “Run, Little Chillin” (March 1, 1933-June 17, 1933, and the Lyric Theatre ended its legitimate days in 1934. In order to survive during the Depression, it joined many other W. 42nd Street houses in becoming a movie theatre. The Lyric Theatre remained a movie house until it closed in 1992 (by which time it was in poor shape). In 1996, after its remaining architectural elements were removed, it joined the neighboring Apollo Theatre in being razed apart from its facades.
Replaced by the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, which architectural fragments of both the Lyric Theatre and Apollo Theatre were reused in. Both W. 42nd Street and W. 43rd Street facades of both the Lyric Theatre and Apollo Theatre were also retained. Former Cineplex Odeon baron Garth Drabinsky envisioned the $36 million Ford Center as a home for his production of “Ragtime”, and would be the first new free-standing legitimate house built in Times Square in over 70 years. The Ford Center for the Performing Arts was later renamed the Hilton Theatre, and in 2011 became the Foxwoods Theatre. In May 2013 it was taken over by the British based Ambassador Theatre Group and was renamed Lyric Theatre in March 2014.
Some of the information here was found in the books “Lost Broadway Theatres” by Nicholas Van Hoogstraten and “Broadway Theatres” by William Morrison.
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